Cases of rabies in animals each year are common across the Southwest. The dreaded disease can spread easily and rapidly among wildlife and domestic animals, even horses and cattle.

But health officials in Eddy County, New Mexico, say a rash of what is believed to be rabid skunks has raised concerns that this year could be as bad or worse than 2012 and advise local residents to vaccinate pets and warn children of the dangers of handling wild or unknown animals.

While only four cases of animal rabies have been confirmed in New Mexico so far this year, a number of "skunks acting strangely" in Carlsbad have been reported by police officials and residents, and two cases have recently been confirmed.

Carlsbad is the county seat for Eddy County, which was plagued by a major rabies outbreak two years ago. While the number of cases of confirmed rabies is just beginning to spike with the onset of summer weather, officials say several animal are currently under observation and confirm they are watching for skunks that were spotted but have eluded capture.

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The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDH) and the City of Albuquerque Environmental Health Department announced this week two bats from the South Valley of Albuquerque have tested positive for rabies in the last two weeks.

The latest case happened this week when a rabid bat was found crawling on a woman’s bare foot before she kicked it away. The bat was confirmed to be infected with the rabies virus and the woman must now undergo a series of vaccinations as a safety measure to avoid the disease.